01 March 2021 (updated)

Explore the Cape Henry Lighthouse - Virginia Beach's Hidden Gem

Make sure you visit one of Virginia Beach's official symbols while staying here. Here are some of the best tips for visiting Cape Henry Lighthouse. So let's start exploring!

What Is the Cape Henry Lighthouse?

First things first: There is not only one, but two Cape Henry Lighthouses. They're considered a National Historic Landmark and the official symbol of the City of Virginia Beach.

You'll find them on the grounds of the Fort Story Military Base. Make sure to check out these magnificent examples of civil engineering while you're in town. The Cape Henry Lighthouse offers a unique glimpse of Virginia Beach history and culture, so you don't want to miss out!

Cape Henry Lighthouse History - A Tale of Two Lighthouses

This is the tale of the two lighthouses that sit on Cape Henry, at the edge of the Chesapeake Bay. This location is close to where the English settlers arrived by sea in 1607. Built in 1792, the 90-foot-tall Old Cape Henry Lighthouse (the brick structure) is one of the oldest standing lighthouses in the country.

Almost 100 years later, its cast-iron replacement (the black and white one) was built. It's the tallest cast-iron lighthousein the United States, but unfortunately not open to the public.

More Cape Henry Lighthouse History

You can, however, tour the first federally-funded lighthouse, next to the "First Landing" site where English settlers arrived in 1607. It has stood sentinel since its completion in 1792. The Lighthouse was authorized by George Washington and overseen by Alexander Hamilton. The self-guided tour should take about 30 minutes.

As you climb to the top of the Old Cape Henry Light, count the steps with the kids, peek out the windows, and take a deep breath of the ocean air when you reach the top. Take a photo standing between the lighthouses to share the fun and send them securely to friends and family on the FamilyApp.

Pack a picnic lunch to eat on one of the picnic tables nearby, and snag a souvenir at the museum store. There is a lot of history at your fingertips here in Virginia Beach, and if you have an appreciation for checking out a historic exhibition, or exploring old buildings with interesting architecture, then exploring the Cape Henry Lighthouses is a perfect adventure for you!

What You’ll Need to Explore the Cape Henry Lighthouse

  • a Picture Identification to enter the Fort Story Military Base (either via walking, biking, or driving)
  • If you drive your car in - you'll need proper documentation.
  • $8 for admission (if you choose to climb the old lighthouse)
  • a quick review of their Visitor Information

Note: During the summer months, the temperature at the top of the tower can reach extreme levels. Cape Henry Lighthouse will close the tower when the heat index inside reaches 125°. They also close the tower during thunderstorms and when lightning has been spotted. Visitors will still be able to walk to the top of the dune and shop in the museum store. Winter weather advisories also may affect the opening of the lighthouse. If you have questions about closings call 757-422-9421.

More Resources



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